Reader Contribution by Mary Powell
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When I got Allie, my first border collie, I had no intention of ever raising a litter of pups.  It was after two years of constant pestering by some friends that I finally decided to raise one litter out of Allie.  But one litter didn’t fill the bill, more people wanted pups. I kept one pup from the first litter and when the second litter came along, I had no intention of keeping a pup, but Joy was marked very similar to Jinx but her reflection, something made me keep her and I am glad I did because she is the mother of Fly and she had her second litter of pups on January 13, 2019, Allie’s 13th birthday.  I may be keeping a pup from this litter as well since there is a pup marked very similarly to Miss Allie.  My reasons for keeping pups is for working but the markings tell me something special about each pup and  I know exactly what each pup will end up doing for me.  After working with dogs for a while, a person can pick up on these things; I’ve got things figured out on this line of dogs I have raised.

Raising puppies sounds fun and it is.  Raising puppies is also a lot of work and is very expensive, which is why it is better to get a pup from a reputable breeder with working bloodlines than it is to jump into it blindly.  I did a lot of research before I made my final decision and I kept the same male to breed for both litters on Allie’s pups and we kept the same male for Joy’s pups.  You don’t want to mess with a good thing.

Once the pups are born, you have special feed bills, vet bills and a lot of laundry, puddle pads, chewed up shoes and incidental expenses.  You are constantly cleaning up after the puppies and making sure they are safe.  Then there is training.  I start training the pups as soon as their eyes are open and they are able to walk, not crawl.  When the puppies start following me, we will start working on house training and walking together.  If the weather is nice, the first thing each morning, when they wake up, we go outside to do the business of the day and praise them for their puddles outside.  I also praise them when they piddle on the puddle pads.

Puppies will naturally follow you, if you call them.  They know you mean fun or food by the time they are five weeks old.  You can call them to follow you around the yard for a few minutes and when you stop walking, say the word, “stop”, the will eventually pick that up and understand that stop means stop walking when person says stop.  When you start walking again, say “come” and they will follow.  As you use the verbal cues, the pups will start understanding the words.  One word commands are vital to training a pup.

Usually I attempt to teach the sit command when the pups are around 5 weeks old, so they are learning a lot and if they are focused on you, these are not difficult.  I had a litter of 5 pups trained to sit on command and they all sat at once, waiting for their chewy cheese treats.  Food is a good motivator.

Once the sit command is learned, you can work on stay.  That is a little more difficult to learn but once the “come” command is learned, you can teach the pup stay.  Put the puppy into a sit command and put your hand out and say, “Stay”.  Take a step backwards from the pup.  If it moves, say “NO.” firmly and put the pup back in the same place.  Put your hand out in front of its face again and say stay.  Take a step backwards and if it stays, tell it “good pup”, then call it to you. Make sure you reward the pup.  As the pup focuses on you and you commands, they will learn faster and faster and as you make them stay longer, you can turn your back and give the command. 

As mentioned in a previous post, TIME is the most important key in having a good working relationship with your working dog, whether it be a Border Collie or an English Sheepdog, it takes time to learn to work with your dog and the dog must learn from you as well.  For a first time Border Collie owner, I recommend a dog that is already trained. Once you get used to how they work, then a puppy might be the way to go, to further your experience working with the dogs.  Either way, remember, these dogs are a lot of responsibility and they take a lot of time investment.

Mary Powell is a goat rental-business owner and agricultural educator with more than 27 years’ experience working on ranches, farms and feedyards. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Kansas State University with an emphasis in Livestock Production Management. Follow Mary and her many misadventures with the goats on Facebook at Barnyard Weed Warriors and Ash Grove Goat Ranch or on her BarnyardWeedWarriors.com website.  If you have questions for her about her goats or Border Collies, email Mary at barnyardweedwarriors@yahoo.com.

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